‘Dumb on crime’

The federal Liberals plan to shoot down a crime bill proposed by the Conservatives that would include stiffer sentences for drug possession, as well could require tens of millions, even billions of dollars to build new prisons.

The Liberals also worry that Bill S-10 – which has been passed by the Senate and is now before the House of Commons – would unfairly target younger criminals, as it would carry the same mandatory six-month sentence for possessing six marijuana plants as it would for having 200.

“This bill isn’t tough on crime, it’s dumb on crime,” said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. “We’re all in favour of cracking down on serious criminals, but this bill doesn’t distinguish between massive growops and a first-time offender with a small amount.”

The Conservatives haven’t actually said how much it would cost to implement the bill, or build new prisons, or where they would be constructed.

But the bill is expected to put more people in jail, despite what health professionals say: there is no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences will reduce drug use or deter crime.

Last week, a group of 400 leading physicians and scientists issued a statement criticizing the legislation, claiming that it is not scientifically grounded and that research demonstrates it may contribute to health and social harms.

Crime rates in Canada have been declining in recent years, without such a bill.

Housing a federal prisoner costs $88,000 a year, and with more of them anticipated, Correctional Service of Canada plans to hire 5,000 new employees.

Even in the U.S., a conservative group is arguing for more responsible spending on criminal justice spending.

Why not here, where, according to Health Canada, more than 40 per cent of Canadians have used marijuana. Nearly half the country has disregarded the law on marijuana use, so the Conservatives want to spend potentially billions of dollars locking up those who grow it.

This whole discussion inevitably leads back to the issue of prohibition and legalization, but what it’s really about is getting re-elected, not what makes sense.

Mr. Ignatieff is right. That is dumb.

– The News